Maybe money does not buy happiness after all

January 12, 2010

Interesting article and slide show found on CNBC. Here is the text:

As it turns out, some of the highest income states are among the unhappiest, according to a recent study by economists Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu, of the University of Warwick and Hamilton College, respectively.

Taking into account both subjective and objective factors such as sunshine, congestion and pollution in a survey of 1.3 million Americans between 2005 and 2008, the researchers determined which states have the happiest – and unhappiest – residents. Among the happiest are Louisiana, Hawaii and Florida.

“Some might be surprised that states in the south with lower income ranked as high as they did,” said Wu, economist at Hamilton College. “States with high income rate fairly low on the happiness levels. To some it might seem counterintuitive; it’s not just about income levels, but those places might be more crowded, more congested on the roadway, [have] less available land.”

For the slide show click on this link: The Unhappiest States in America


Just be yourself!

September 14, 2009

This is a prerequisite if you want to grow and be happy in life, as well personally as professionally.
Although it would sound like an easy thing to achieve, too many people seem to have difficulties getting there. Many internal and external reasons can explain that, but it is always possible to change for the best.

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

Why is being yourself so important?
Quite obviously, if you are not yourself, then who are you? Just this question makes clear that it will difficult to know who you are. If you think you are some of your role model, realize that s/he probably was him/herself, and that is why they got in that position of role model.
Moreover, if you are playing being someone else (like the example on the right), you will miss the opportunity to genuinely improve yourself and achieve higher fulfillment in life.

How can you be yourself?
This can take more or less time between people to find out, but it is possible and not that complicated. All you need is to have people you trust to give you candid feedback. You have to understand that even the most popular people are not perfect and that they have their insecurities as well. An easy way of discovering yourself it to find what you like most and what you like less in life. Capitalize on your assets and limit your liabilities. Accept your limitations and enjoy your talents! After all no one is talented in everything, and all you need to be happier is to do what you do best and like it. To find out who you are and to be yourself, you are just going to need to determine how much will, dare, capability and knowledge you have.

Deal with other people’s judgment!
Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion about other people, and most of the time it is based on very partial information. Most disputes are the result of a lack of communication, not of knowing each other well. I often tell the same joke about how lucky I have been in life to meet only great people who unfortunately for them all have seemed to be surrounded by idiots.
Realize that you cannot please everyone, and whatever you may do and whoever you maybe, there always will be someone out there to criticize you. The only feedback that counts is the one from people who really know you well, and that you trust enough to give you their opinion. Such an exercise is not about passing or failing, but it is about self-knowledge and possibilities of improvement. True friends will not shoot you down. In this exercise, they will tell you what you could be better at.
Also realize that it is better to get some bad feedback on who you really are than on whom you trying to be, because in that case, the information is useful for you.
If you find difficult to accept yourself, you need to consider two things. First, you are not the only person who feels that way; a large of majority of people tends to underestimate themselves. Secondly, most people have much more potential than they think; all they need is to take more chances. You need to show the world what you can.
Finally, always make sure that you are the one deciding for yourself. Peer pressure and your social environment, not even to mention marketing and the media have a very powerful impact on how many people think they should be. It is not to them to decide about that. Dare to challenge them. Also, realize that people who are themselves always attract compatible people, thus making their lives more interesting and fulfilling.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The ten signs of a happy person

September 6, 2009

Just hap-pyIn no particular order of course, you will notice that happy people:

  • Are in good health.
  • Smile and laugh often and look at others in the eyes when talking to them.
  • Are assertive, not aggressive.
  • Do not envy or criticize others, they have a positive attitude.
  • Make other people happy and are loved.
  • Have no addiction, they just do not need any.
  • Like what they do (personally as well as professionally) and they like who they are.
  • Are themselves and accept others the way they are.
  • Are not selfish or self-centered.
  • Problems do not seem to stick to them; they just deal with them.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, how many people do you know who would qualify?

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Are you living your dreams?

September 3, 2009

Dreaming your lifeFrom early childhood, we all have had our ideas and dreams about how life would be later. You know, when I grow up, I want to…
Yet, later in life, many people seem to have forgotten about these dreams or, worse, they have given up on them. This is sad, because there are not many things that can energize and motivate you as the pursuit of something very dear to you: being the person you always wanted to be.

Personally, I have been blessed with supportive and open-minded parents. They always encouraged me to pursue what I really wanted to do, if that was indeed good and important for me. The fact that they also taught me boundaries made such encouragements even more stimulating: if they supported me, I knew that it was because what I was aiming at was worth it. Consciously going after something meaningful is one of the most motivating things I can think of.

This has allowed me to be aware of my personality and of my possibilities at a young age, which made it possible for me to decide much of how my life would be like. Like everyone else, there have been bumps on the road once in a while, but knowing what I wanted always helped keep the course, and that has brought me lots of satisfaction and the privilege of living quite a few of my childhood’s dreams.
As I grew a little less young, I also discovered that dreaming is a work in progress. It is nice to pursue your childhood’s dreams, but sometimes, circumstances change, or the dreams appear to not be as realistic or sensible as they seemed first, and we left them aside. That is not really a problem as long as we keep the ability to keep envisioning who we want to be. With age comes more experience, more self-awareness and this is why it is never too late to think of what we want to be later. This process has nothing to do with any mid-life crisis, as that is something else, which is not about dreaming about the future; it is the mourning of the past.

I have been lucky to live most of my youth’s dreams and it has brought me to where I am today: a happy and fulfilled man who wants to make it possible for others to experience the same. It has made me able to look at my life in a dynamic manner and constantly think of how and in what I can grow further, and the ideas keep coming.

Who you want to be is the mix of what you love to do, what you do best, what your values are, and of where and with whom you want to make this happen.

The worst thing to do to oneself being not to try at all, and regret it for the rest of one’s life, the question that you must ask yourself is: Are you living your dreams?
If not, what happened then? More importantly, what are you going to do about it? Can you think of better objectives today, thanks to a better knowledge of yourself? What is keeping you from trying, and how can you overcome such hurdles? It is only by trying over and over again that one succeeds.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The Life Plan will help you increase personal fulfillment

August 4, 2009

Your level of happiness or fulfillment is generally a direct consequence of how much you live your life and live in an environment that matches your values.

Here at The Happy Future Group, we have developed our Life Plan program (see the presentation under “Personal Programs“) to help you identify how balanced your life and your values are, and from there we help you build your own specific action list.

The process is simple. To identify your values, you will confront your own findings with some of your friends’ assessment of what truly drives you. Involving trusted friends to participate makes this process more fun and more rewarding. It also avoids this search to feel like a questioning, and at the same time, it will give you a much more objective feedback. After all, every person is who they really are, but also whom they show and who others think they are. By reducing the discrepancy between these three apparently different persons, your level of happiness will naturally increase.

By assessing how much fulfillment the different parts of your life match your core values, you will get your own “fulfillment index”. From that index and its analysis, it will become rather easy and obvious what actions you will need to take to increase your level of fulfillment.

The philosophy of the action list is all about incremental improvement. Consider your current life as being the ground zero. Each action when completed will help you live more to your values, and therefore you will achieve progress one step at a time. The timelines are the ones you feel comfortable with. All you need is to fully commit to the process. Should you “soften” a bit, we will help you remember what you promised yourself to achieve.

All you need to complete this process to success is to have the willingness to make it work, to be yourself and to spend the necessary time and energy.

To be happy, you do not need to go up the mountain to find yourself. It is all here and now, inside and around you!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


“Want to” vs. “Have to”: What it means in happiness terms.

June 9, 2009

Want to or have to?It is rather easy to sort people in either one of these two groups. They have very specific and very different behaviors.
For the “Have to” people, everything seems to be a chore. They do not seem to have much fun in life and certainly even less at work. They are the ones that get up in the morning dreading going to work, they hate Mondays and they desperately long for weekends. Their heads and backs are bent under the overwhelming weight of the world they have to (of course) carry on their shoulders.
On the other hand, the “Want to” people seem quite happy, they enjoy what they do (of course, since they want to). They are upbeat and do not seem to carry any heavy burden. The positivity that they exude has nothing to do with the amount of work or the lifestyle they have. All the difference is in their attitude.
The “Want to” people enjoy life more, simply because they have made choices. They have taken charge of their lives and have shaped it around what provides them with fulfillment. Unfortunately for them, the “Have to” people have not reached that point, and they tend to let their environment (boss, family, friends, TV ads, etc…) decide for them what they have to do. Indeed, living somebody else’s life can be tiring and frustrating.
Yet, making the switch is not very difficult, and the best is to start with simple things. What activities, either personal or of a more professional nature do you like to do and provide you with satisfaction? Pick one or two for a start and make a habit of them. The fun that you will get by carrying out these activities will be the best motivation to add more of them in your life.
All it takes is to make the first move, start gradually and persevere. Just take charge of your choices. There is no need and no rush to change everything at once; after all, you have your whole life to reach your goals.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Empathy: the gentle way to get things done

June 4, 2009

Reaching outEmpathy is one of those qualities that is acknowledged as being important, but for which there is little training given. One reason probably is that empathy, like some other personality traits, one is born with it more than one can learn it. Yet, there are certain patterns that can be acquired and help people interact with their fellow men better.

What does make empathy so effective in interpersonal relationships?
Empathic people come over as more gentle and get their way more easily, because in the interaction, they take the other side’s point of view in the picture. This makes the other party more receptive to your arguments, as they have the feeling that the outcome is not a win-lose but a win-win situation. What empathy does is create a sense of mutual respect and mutual benefit. This is true as well in private life as at work.

How can someone learn to become more empathic?
This is not a simple process, as empathy is not a skill, but part of one’s personality. The starting point will always have to be the acknowledgement by the person that he/she needs to improve. To understand the impact they make by lacking empathy, they need to see how other people react to their behavior. A good way to do this is to have a video of how they interact with others. Another powerful way is to have them role-play with an instructor who will expose their behavior. Like many issues related to personality, nothing works as well as immediate feedback and correction. They also have to be able to ask themselves “what’s in it for the other party?”, as they soon will realize that they can achieve much more when their counterpart gets something out of the “deal”. Making a list of the needs and wants of both parties before going to a meeting or negotiation can be very useful, as at least the person has to put him/herself in their shoes.

How to deal with low-empathy people?
In my view, the best way is by using your empathy and figure out what their motives might be. It is also very important to be quite firm on what you want and to not give away anything without getting something in return. Assertiveness is also a powerful tool: tell them how they make you feel and what you think about that! However, the most powerful tool of them all is very likely to make them feel that they will lose more than gain by not changing. Low-empathy people do not like losing anything.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Tip: Make their day, they will make yours!

May 11, 2009
Here is a simple way to make yourself happy. If you do it only once, you will be happy for a little while. If you do it on a regular basis, the feeling will get much more permanent.

All you need to do is to give positive feedback or a compliment to someone when they do something that you appreciate. Of course, this works only if there is a genuine reason and if the compliment is genuine as well.
Flattery or hypocritical compliments will not have the same effect. Although it probably makes the person who receives it happy, it will not provide you with as much fulfillment as it does when it is meant.
For instance, this week I wrote a recommendation on LinkedIn about a former colleague. His reaction was quite positive and a few good things have happened since then.
An other example was yesterday: I went to a drugstore to buy something that I had seen on ad in their flyer. I could not find it and I asked an employee for help. He went in the back to see if they had any in inventory, which they did not and he offered me to write a rain check. He did this with so much professionalism that I was quite impressed. When I left, I had to compliment him on how helpful he had been. The smile on his face just made me feel really good about myself, too.
I made their day, and their response made mine as well. Even if it was about rather mundane stuff, the return was above any expectation.

So, go ahead! Give good people around you the genuine positive feedback they deserve when they do something right! It does not matter if it is in your private life or at work. You will feel great about it, and I bet that you will repeat it in the future.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Happiness and IQ

May 11, 2009

Is there a correlation between happiness and intellectual capacity? I had to think about this lately, as I had posted a poll in the Mensa Yahoo! group of British Columbia.

bulbIn my life, I have heard this question often and I also heard all sorts of answers, varying from one extreme to the other. Yet, there seems to be a majority of people who seem to think that intelligence is an impediment for happiness.
After all, even in the Bible, we can find a similar idea. One of the beatitudes says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
Then, is it easier to be happy for the less bright ones? I will let everyone figure the answer that suit them, but here are my thoughts.

First, I would like to get back to the Mensa poll. For those who might know what Mensa is, Mensa is an organization that gathers people who are among the 2% highest IQ in the world; its purpose is quite noble, as it aims at using the members’ intelligence to improve the world we live in. I am quite glad that I passed the test, and moreover I have been a happy person for most of my life. After some time in that group and getting slightly annoyed by the pretentious and condescending attitude of some of the members, I decided just as a tease, but also out of curiosity, to post that poll, asking:

“Do you think that having a high IQ makes it:
A. Easier
B. More difficult
C. Indifferent for you to be happy?”

 

I was not surprised to see that a majority answered B to the question, although my poll certainly has no scientific value whatsoever. And that brought me to wonder what the advantage would be of being smart if its cost is not being happy.
Fortunately, there is no correlation between IQ and happiness. One is happy if one chooses to be so.

Only the ones who want to question everything and see the glass half empty all the time will not find peace, because there are plenty of reasons to find imperfections. Maybe, what makes some think that the simpler minds are more easily happy, is just the fact that they may spend less time trying to analyze every little detail and just enjoy thing for what they are.
However, this does not have to be limited to simple minds. People with high IQ can just do the same, all it takes is the right mind set. Even if you analyze things, that does not hinder you from seeing the good and the beautiful when it comes under your eyes.
I came to the conclusion that the unhappy “brains” probably just suffer from negativity and maybe of a lack of self-esteem, that brings them to focus more on the negatives than on the positives.

How sad is that, to have a great brain and use it in the wrong way? Well, who said that intelligence and high IQ were the same?

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Can you save people from themselves?

May 11, 2009

This is one of the most fascinating aspects of personality. People tend to keep following certain patterns, even if it is clear to everyone else, and often to themselves, that their behaviour is playing against them.
ClearerJust as an example, I illustrate this with the warning on packs of cigarettes. You would think that the warning is crystal clear. Yet, it does not stop some from keeping on smoking, almost like it is a cure for cancer. They know it is quite unhealthy, but simply decide to ignore the warning.
However, I would not limit the description to just seriously addictive behaviors, because the “oops factor” covers many more areas.
For instance, there is the one who simply cannot keep his mouth shut when he should and end up saying something that will get him in trouble. Or the person in debt, who simply cannot resist buying more stuff with his credit card, while he should not. Or the daredevil doing silly stunts and ending up in the frequent patient program of the local hospital. We all know many similar examples of people not able to help themselves from getting in trouble.
So, what causes this? And how can we help others to break their patterns, thus bringing a positive change?
The cause very often lies in the inability of the individual to recognize the pattern he follows, and the consequences of it, or because the person thinks that it will all come out well in the end. This is very clear in the case of serious addictions such as drug abuse, alcoholism, smoking or gambling, but even the more mundane behavioral “masochism” we can find quite a few similarities with addictive urges. This lack of awareness, and sometimes denial of the problem, is quite difficult to tackle, because such a behavior is deeply rooted in the person’s unconscious. In most cases, this behavior is the result of habits that have been taken a long time ago without anyone acting by then to correct them. Over time, they have become part of the individual personality and considered “normal” by this person. Unless these people will come to the conclusion that they have a problem, they will not see any reason to act on it.
Just like with serious addictions, it will take a lot of patience and many hard facts to make the person realize what pattern he follows, and in some cases only a major shock such as an accident, a disease or the death of a close friend will be able to shake him enough to really decide to change.
It really is quite amazing how much easier it is to save someone from someone else, or from something, than it is to save them from themselves.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The meaning of life

May 11, 2009

Some subjects have the ability to keep you busy for a while. The title of this article is one of them.
The problem with it, though, is that the answer is really difficult to find and cannot be verified for sure. Depending on whether you are a scientist, a theologian, a philosopher or a hockey fan, the way you will answer this question will vary quite substantially.

The Meaning of Life

Therefore, this question remains mostly an intellectual exercise, which can be satisfying, but it lacks practicality.
Instead of tormenting oneself with the absolute answer that no one can find, maybe because there is no such absolute answer, this topic can be dealt with in a much more stimulating and practical way.
All you need to do is to slightly change the question, from “What is the meaning of life?” into “What meaning do I want to give to my life?”. This simple shift of scope can do wonders, and quite rightly so, because it now offers you the possibility to become your own Creator, thus shifting the scope of another difficult quest for absolute truth that has kept mankind busy for eons.

There are a few simple steps and simple things can help you creating a very meaningful life:

  • Identifying which values are really important to you.
  • Identifying what makes you feel alive.
  • Taking the initiative, instead of letting your environment make the decisions that will shape your life.
  • Persisting when you meet resistance.
  • Always identifying the positive signs and remaining enthusiastic.
  • Taking the opportunity to learn and improve.
  • Venturing out of your comfort zone.
  • Not being afraid of setbacks, as they are part of life anyway.
  • Making decisions and keeping moving on.

Giving a meaning to your life is all about pursuing fulfillment and finding gratification in your activities, and this as much in your personal life as well as in your professional life. If it happens to fill a universal significance, too, then that will be a nice addition. However, you must build your life for yourself first, because all that counts is that your life means something to you.

The worst thing would be a meaningless life, wouldn’t you agree? But that can happen only by waiting and not taking action. So, live, experience, try and share!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.